Career, Leadership, Managerial, Network, Personal

Masteries of an Executive Outlier

by James Murray, on Nov 7, 2022


What makes an Executive Outlier?

If we map all executives on a bell curve, we can compare executives by industry norms. However, there are exceptions. How do we compare executives like Andrew Carnegie, Jack Welch, or Elon Musk, who fall well outside the standard executive bell curve? These leaders are executive outliers. In this article, we are interested in outliers and sharing the preparation masteries of an executive outlier.

Executive Outlier Masteries
Defining an outlier

A Galton board demonstrates how data always fall into a natural bell curve. In a sample of millions of executives there will always be a couple of outliers that will be ignored by researchers. When studying business, we lose something if we throw out the executive outliers. If we ignore the outliers from 100 years ago, we ignore people like,

Alternatively, we can look at the last 50 years for more modern examples of executive outliers.

The natural question

Malcom Gladwell, in his book Outliers, answers the question, how does and executive become an outlier? His quick answer is,

  1. Timing – being in the right time and the right place
  2. Preparation – thousands of hours of pre-timing preparation

The book, Outliers, discuses the example of Bill Gates. The timing and place was just right for him. As teenager he was sneaking out at night to practice with University of Washington’s mainframe. To capture timing he decided to drop out of college in order to start Microsoft. Without preparation and timing, Bill Gates probably would have been a good mathematician, working at IBM, Xerox or in Academia.

It turns out that preparation is essential for an executive. Without it you won’t be ready when opportunity “knocks.The problem is knowing what expertise you must have when the time comes?

Seven Masteries of an executive outlier

Outliers have a different focus. While others are playing, outliers pursue masteries. Whether intentional or not these masteries prepare them to be “…at the right time, in the right place.”

  1. Leadership – Outliers are lifetime students of leadership.
  2. Network – Build an exceptional network of people, prepared and willing to help them. 
  3. Managerial – Understand how to scale organizational operations for optimal growth. 
  4. Execution – Masters at aligning both strategy and tactical execution. 
  5. Career – Outliers have a personal career strategy that matches a personal vision for their lives. 
  6. Personal – focus on self, to avoid self-sabotaging their physical, mental or philosophical well being.
  7. Financial – Success requires a focus on equity management.

We will be going more deeply into each of these masteries in our future blogs.

Defining a Masteries of an Executive Outlier -leadership

As an example, let’s discuss leadership. How would you define leadership? When I ask executives, here’s what I find. Compared the whole, 80% will talk excitedly about the last book they read on leadership. On the other hand, 20% will excitedly focus on their managerial experience and successes. In contrast there there are some executives that excitedly share a vision of the future. These are the outliers. For an example we can look to the founding fathers of the United States of America.

Founding Fathers Masteries of an Executive Outlier

The US founding fathers; Washington, Jefferson and Franklin spoke with a vision. “Equality for all” Inspired the first generations of US patriots. In 1861, Abraham Lincoln fought a civil war using the same vison. Inspiring a new generation. Many in that generation, died for the ideal, “...all men are equal.

Outliers don’t wake up one day as outliers. There is a series of practices they seem to follow long before the time is right. Leadership is one of those masteries that all outliers share. Anyone can build a network or develop leadership. The problem is that most of us wait till we need those masteries before we start working on them. Outliers start long before it’s time.

Imagine a teenager getting up at 3 AM every morning, sneaking out of the house, and driving to the University of Washington. Then, morning after morning, practicing for 10,000 hours of programming on the university mainframe.

It’s unheard of. Yet that’s what Bill Gates did to prepare.

Whether we are talking about technology experts, athletes, or great artists each outlier has their own story of preparation. Each story just as outrageous and unheard of. At a minimum, outliers practice these seven masteries to long before they are needed.

The Masters of an Executive Outliers Blog and Vision

For the next year we will focus on the masteries of an executive outlier. At Executive Outliers, our company supports mid-market business leaders in their quest to change the world.

What is your definition of leadership? If you are a change agent, this blog was designed for you. We’d invite you to contribute to it. Please send us your definition of leadership or write about these masteries of executive outliers. If we like it, we’ll publish it and share it with our network.

Invitation to contribute to masteries of an Executive Outlier

We welcome our input. Get your ideas, experience and vision in front mid-market business leaders, in our network. Our only requests are that you aren’t boring, plagiarizing someone else’s ideas or using market speak* designed to sell your company. On the other hand, present an innovative idea and you will look cool. Our readers will naturally want to check you out to learn more.

(Note: Save the market speak, and the features and benefits of your services for your website. If our ideas are interesting and innovative our network will think you are cool. they can follow learn more by following the link in your bio to your website.)

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